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Engaging with postgraduate research: education, childhood & youth
Engaging with postgraduate research: education, childhood & youth

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2.1 Research paradigm

A term you will meet widely in research literature, which is commonly used to mean world view or, as Thomas (2009, p. 77) describes, ‘positions on the best ways to think about and study the social world’, is research paradigm. A paradigm involves a system of beliefs and practices that draw on theoretical assumptions and justifications. A research paradigm influences:

  • what is considered problematic, i.e. what warrants researching;
  • the types of questions that follow from this;
  • the approach to generating data;
  • the kind of data, and therefore the kind of methods, chosen;
  • how the data is analysed.

A world view, or paradigm, is broad based. What distinguishes paradigms from each other are the beliefs and theoretical perspectives that are drawn on. Paradigms are discussed in more detail in Section 3.

Within research paradigms, you draw on theories that relate to the complexity of knowledge and reality. In essence, research paradigms are made up of two main components, which you will look at next.